Monday, September 30, 2013

Where to next???

I was thinking today about what direction I’d like to take this blog now that we’ve pretty much exhausted the “what we did, what we saw” portion of our summer 2013 adventure.  I’ve been putting together our photo book at Shutterfly, and while there, I paused to look through our photos from 2010 when we spent several days pre-cruise in London before sailing from Dover.  I’ve posted before about how important it is to have some pre-cruise days when traveling a far distance to allow for adjusting to the new time zone as well as giving your luggage time to catch up with you if there were delays.  But I haven’t written about spending some days either pre- or post-cruise somewhere besides the departure port.  Because we were already spending a month on vacation, staying in Barcelona pre- and post-sailing made the most sense for us, but for some of our fellow passengers, they extended their 12-night cruise and spent several days in places such as London, Paris, and Venice.


Because we have been to London and Venice, and even though we would like to go back, if you all are in agreement, I’d like to turn our attention to planning some days in Paris.  We don’t have a date in mind, but we do know we want to make it over there at some point in the not-too-distant future.  We have some local area friends that we’ve talked about taking a river cruise with in Europe and think that when we do that, would be a great time to spend several days in Paris either before or after.  And because I like to have time to research places, now seems as good a time as any to start!



Jusqu'à la prochaine fois…

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Raising the Costa Concordia

We booked our Mediterranean cruises just days after the Costa Concordia was wrecked in January 2012.  The night of the tragic event, I stayed up entirely too late watching the online coverage of the breaking story and following along on various cruise boards to read reports as they came in from passengers who had been on board.  We thought about what we might do differently than usual when taking our next cruise so that we would be better prepared in the unlikely event that we would have to abandon ship in a hurry.  And when we sailed, we did change things up from how we've sailed before - things like making sure our passports were gathered and ready to grab in a hurry along with cash and other important documents we had with us.  We kept our belongings organized in such a way that if we lost light, we could still get what we would need. And for the first time, I took a flashlight with us.  Thankfully we didn't need quick access to anything, but I slept better each night knowing we were better prepared.

This week, the Costa Concordia was raised from where she laid on her side for these long months.  Reuters captured the raising in a time-lapse video, shared here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We noticed that many of the clocks in the parts of Europe we visited had Roman numerals for the hour and regular numbers for the minutes, displayed every five minutes. And the face of the clocks were more for the phases of the moon and the seasons.

Monday, September 23, 2013

DCL Summer 2014 itineraries

When we decided to sail with Disney Cruise Line for their Mediterranean itineraries in summer 2013, we did so thinking that there might be a chance they didn’t return to the Med for the 2014 season.  We needn’t have worried because there are a variety of cruises available next summer, ranging from 4 nights to 12 nights with departures from Barcelona and from Venice.  And her ship will be stopping at some new ports including Catania, Italy (Sicily), Katakolon, Greece (the gateway to Olympia) and Corfu, Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini in the Greek Isles. 


So if you’ve been thinking about a Disney Mediterranean cruise, particularly with stops in Greece, you might want to see what they have available.  And if you don’t already have a travel agent, we’re happy to recommend the ones we have used for years now.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Pantheon

Today's site from Rome is the ancient building, the Pantheon. 

The open dome allows sunlight to stream in, creating a beautiful view.  Unfortunately, it also allows the rain, so beware of slippery floors in inclement weather.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Trevi Fountain

Today’s photo is of the Trevi Fountain where legend has it if you toss a coin into the fountain, you will one day return to Roma.
In 2007, we did just that.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Romulus and Remus

The boy’s AP Art History class begins a unit on Rome next week.  One of the pieces they will be learning about is this one featuring Remus and Romulus which is found at the Pallazio Del Conservatori.  There are several versions of the legend of these twin brothers.  If you want to learn about them, here are a few sites we found that might satisfy your interest.
And if you want to see this statue for yourself but won’t be in Rome, Italy, no worries – you can see a bronze replica that was presented to Rome, Georgia, in 1929.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Arch of Constantine

Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine.  You can read more about the Arch of Constantine online.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Inside the Coliseum

In summer 2007, we sailed with Disney Cruise Line to the Mediterranean as part of their inaugural season.  Since I’m posting Rome photos this week, I thought I’d delve into the photo archives for a peek at some of the things we saw then.  The thing about the Eternal City of Rome is that their really really old stuff doesn’t change much.


This photo is from our inside tour of the Coliseum, July 2007. If you ever get a chance to tour inside, it’s well worth it!



Monday, September 16, 2013

From within the Roman Forum

This is a super busy week so my theme for the week will be pictures from Rome.




From within the Roman Forum

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Main Buildings of the Acropolis

AP Art History Review Sheet for unit test on Ancient Greece:
Q.  Name the four buildings on the Acropolis.
A.  The Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheum.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fare Watching

This time a year ago, we were booking airfare for our trip.  We knew which flight we wanted - nonstop from Atlanta to Barcelona, so as soon as our travel dates were available for booking, we monitored the price nearly every day.  Airfare is usually available for purchase 330 days in advance of your return flight, so that's a good time to start fare-watching. 

There are several sites online that will assist in fare watching and provide alerts based on whatever criteria you select.  For us, because we knew which flight we wanted and which dates we needed to travel, we did our own fare watching by checking the airline site directly.  But if you have choices for where to fly from or you don't mind having a connecting flight either before you leave the US or somewhere in Europe, the travel sites do a good job of helping you accumulate the data you need to make a decision about when to purchase.

I looked today to see what airfare for a comparable flight would be if we were traveling next summer.  The price quoted today is about $75 more than this time last year, and over $130 more than we ended up booking for.  We did book our June 2013 flight in September 2012 but only after watching the fares for several weeks, so when we saw a dip in price, we grabbed it.  Much like playing slot machines, once you've purchased your airfare, you shouldn't keep checking in case a much better deal comes along, but I couldn't help myself and did follow our flight's cost for several more weeks. It turned out we bought at the lowest point and had the satisfaction of being able to get our choice of seats on the plane as well as crossing flight arrangements off our list of things to do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer produce

Summer is winding down and that means fresh fruit and vegetables will not be so readily available at reasonable prices.  We have enjoyed a bounty of seasonal produce throughout the summer, and while the stores will fill up with fall items, our favorites are of the summer variety.
We were in Europe during peak vegetable season and in several ports we saw street markets where one could pick up what they wanted and have it be as fresh as if they had picked it off the vines themselves.  We commented on several occasions about how tasty the produce was and discovered that the volcanic soil and the purity of water sources contributed to the flavorfulness of the contents of our salads and side dishes.
Today’s picture was taken in Mykonos in the Old Town area by the water.  It was around 10 AM and produce and flower baskets lined the edge of the waterfront.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Walt Disney Theater

The Walt Disney Theater is the venue for the Broadway-style production shows that are performed several nights onboard the Disney Cruise Line ships. I love the iconic picture of Walt on the wall in the lobby area to the theater. This is a great meeting place and photo spot on the Disney ships.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Twelve years ago...

After the events of 9/11/2001, people were concerned about the safety of traveling.  The travel industry took a bit of a hit as plans were changed or even cancelled, and it took a while for it to recover.  But I’m so glad it did because traveling is such a part of our lives and I would hate to have missed out on the wonderful opportunities we’ve had to explore new places.

DH and I have always enjoyed traveling together.  In fact, one thing that was important to both of us before we married was whether our travel styles were compatible.  Was I a luxury resort and spa kinda gal?  Was he a toss a few things in the back of the truck and wing it kinda guy?  Did my mother warn him that I live by the “have toothbrush, will travel” motto?  Did his parents instill a love of foreign travel and adventure in him?

As it turned out, we have similar travel styles.  We both like to go, but we like to know where we’ll be. You won’t find us heading off without a destination, and since having kids, that’s become even more important to us – that we know there will be a hotel, campsite, or relative’s guest room / floor waiting for us at the end of the day.  We like to spend our days exploring, but we like to have some days to just do nothing, just doing that nothing somewhere besides home!

I think that’s why we enjoy cruising as much as we do.  It satisfies our need to know where we’ll be, it gives us time and opportunity to do explore and to do nothing.  We have seen a lot of places via cruise ship / excursions.  While this blog has focused on our time in the Mediterranean, we’ve also been blessed with the opportunities to cruise in Northern Europe (Baltic), Alaska, the Bahamas, and both the Eastern and Western parts of the Caribbean.  We’d like to go to Hawaii and Canada and New Zealand and Australia and … well, you get the idea.  But in addition to places we can see from a sea-bound ship, we are looking forward to opportunities to experience river cruises where we can venture further inland and explore at less frenetic pace.

Every time we embark on a trip, whether by land, air, or sea, I stop and think about the people on those airplanes a dozen years ago.  Were they on their way, or heading home? Did they have a bag full of souvenirs and memories, or were they full of that anticipation you feel at the beginning of an adventure?  And I pray for our safety and the safety of others around us as we buckle our seatbelts or stand at our safety drill posts.  Because no one should have to go through what those people did.  Twelve years ago today, they were confirming flights and packing their bags.  Twelve years later, we remember them.



Monday, September 9, 2013

9/11/2001: Over a decade later, still tweaking the response

Wednesday marks the 12th year since the horrible tragedies of September 11, 2001.  This week, we are dedicating our blog posts to the men, women, and children who died or lost family members or loved ones as a result of the plane crashes or as part of the rescue and recovery work.

Our world changed that day, and every time we travel, we see the effects of the events of that day.  We recently spoke with someone who hasn’t flown since before 9/11 and were thinking of the differences in air travel compared to before.  From how you pack and what you can (or cannot) bring in your carry-on bag to what you can (or cannot) wear through airport security, the rules have changed.  While the rules and regulations may be a nuisance for passengers, I think we understand the reactiveness to the situation.  It has taken over a decade of adaptation and tweaking to find a balance between being reactive and being over-reactive.  And while it’s not there yet, every time we have flown, we notice subtle changes in the TSA screening protocol.  For example, last month we noticed signs that said passengers age 75 and older can leave on their shoes and light jackets through the security checkpoints.  And kids under age 12 can leave their shoes on now, too.  We even noticed in one airport that the TSA security checkpoint had a “family line” so that parents and children could go through the screening area as a group.

So while there is still the nuisance of having to check a bag if you want to bring your full-sized toothpaste or shampoo, or having to pay exorbitant prices for bottles of water or soda once you’ve passed through screening areas, it’s good to see some changes that make that part of the trip a little easier.

As always, it is a good idea to check the TSA’s website for any updates to security guidelines.  It’s better to know what to expect before you get to the airport than to have to throw something away you wanted to keep.


Friday, September 6, 2013

More Ancient Greek Art

Continuing the Ancient Greek Art theme, I thought we’d share a few pieces from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, pictured below.
Below is the Head of Athena that was found in the Roman Agora of Athens, ca. 450 BC.
And one of my favorites:  Artemision Jockey (about 140 BC).  This bronze statue of a hourse and young jockey was found in pieces from a shipwreck off Cape Artemision in Euboea, and was reassembled in 1971.  His left hand is not making a rude gesture, but would have held the reins for the horse.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Statue of a Sphinx

Since I’ve been looking through our “Ancient Greece Art” photos, today’s picture is from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.  This piece is Statue of a Sphinx, made of pentelic marble.  It was found in Spata, Attica, and is one of the earliest known Archaic Sphinxes and dated about 570 B.C. 

This is one of many important pieces you can find in the museum.  We found this to be worth the time and if we had not had a scheduled excursion, we would have still found our way to the museum.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Art of Ancient Greece - AP Art History Unit

Our older son is taking AP Art History this year.  While we were traveling around, I thought how some of the things we would see in Florence would likely be things he would cover in class, but he is getting an early start as their second unit is on the Art of Ancient Greece. 

His teacher provides 20+ images for each unit that they will study, and from this unit, there are several pieces of art and architecture that they will be covering that we actually saw!  Here are a few of them.

How cool is that? I love when school work and vacation come together!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lost sunglasses

At some point on our first excursion in Monaco and France, I lost my sunglasses.  I know I had them even though it was an overcast day, but the next morning when I was searching for them before heading to Cinque Terre, I couldn’t find them.  I looked all over the cabin, double-checked my day bag, and searched through everything.  The best I could determine is that they fell out of my day bag on the motorcoach on our way back to the port from Eze.  You can’t really see them, but I zoomed in and checked that my sunglasses are in the outside pocket of my day bag right near my hand which is on my camera case.  This photo was in Eze. 


A lost pair of sunglasses might not seem like a big deal, but in the Mediterranean, you want to have sunglasses; the sun is bright and sometimes very intense, especially as you head further south.  Because I wear glasses, I use the “fit over the glasses” kind of sunglasses to give fuller coverage than just those that clip onto my lenses.  Fortunately, our younger son uses the same kind of sunglasses, so I was able to occasionally borrow his when he was staying onboard, but our photos show where I was squinting in the bright light, to the point where my eyes are nearly closed.  So much for getting a family photo we can actually use for our holiday cards this year.

I should be glad that I didn’t lose a pair of prescription sunglasses; my Solar Shields are $20; the prescription lenses would be so much more!  And if anyone was going to lose them, better me than one of the kids for me to fuss at all month.  I kept thinking I would pick up another pair, but I managed to make it through without them.  But my thought is to go ahead and buy two pair when I get around to replacing them, especially if we’ll be traveling where I can’t get to my usual stores.  Then I’ll have a back-up pair.